Leake Tosses Second Straight Shutout

Freshman Gerrit Cole is one of the top pitchers in the Pac 10 Conference, but there was no chance he was going to win on Friday night at Packard Stadium. That is because Mike Leake was taking the hill opposite of him and right now Leake is on another level than every other pitcher in the conference. The junior dominated UCLA, tossing his second straight complete game shutout in a 4-0 victory.

Cole is a rare first round pick that came to college, because the Scott Boras client couldn't reach a deal with the New York Yankees. The freshman was effectively wild on Friday night and allowed just two hits in his 6.1 innings of work, but Leake proved why he is going to be a first round pick in less than a month and the NCAA leader in victories.

It was the fourth straight complete game in a conference game for Leake, who allowed just four hits, two of them in the ninth and struck out 12. Leake will finish the regular season with a 14-1 record with a 1.24 ERA in 115.2 innings and surely will be a finalist for every postseason pitching award, including being a lock for his second straight Pac 10 Pitcher of the Year Award.

Cole matched Leake's scoreless innings with zeros of his own, until the 5th inning when Jared McDonald, getting a rare start at third base, connected for his 4th home run of the season to get ASU on the board at 1-0. Little did the Bruins know that would be all that Leake would need.

The Devils (43-11, 20-5 Pac 10) added an insurance run in the sixth inning, starting with Carlos Ramirez walking and stealing second to start the inning. The stolen base was just the second of the season for the catcher Ramirez. Cole then struck out Kole Calhoun, but the third strike got away from Bruins catcher Steve Rodriguez, allowing Calhoun to reach and moved Ramirez up to third. Riccio Torrez then brought home Ramirez with an RBI groundout to make it 2-0.

Riccio Torrez drew a two out walk against UCLA (26-28, 14-11 Pac 10) reliever Rob Rassmussen in the 8th and Matt Newman made the walk hurt with his 7th home run of the season to stretch the lead to 4-0.

The win officially gave ASU the Pac 10 Championship outright, despite Washington State winning; the Devils lead the Cougars by three games with two to play. The conference title would most certainly not have been won without Leake. In nine Pac 10 starts, Leake went 9-0, threw six complete games and finished with an ERA of 1.27 in conference play. In those nine conference starts, only 3.1 innings were pitched by a different pitcher, giving him 77.2 innings pitched out of the possible 81.

On the other side of things, the loss officially ended the postseason hopes of UCLA. The Bruins, who had extremely high hopes after being ranked #1 in some preseason polls, will finish below .500 and are eliminated from tournament contention.

Before the game on Friday, Leake was named one of the five finalists for National Pitcher of the Year, along with San Diego State star Steven Strasburg. Another complete game shutout certainly won't hurt his cause when the award is announced in three weeks.

With the outright conference title locked up and a top eight national seed all but, it will be interesting to see how Pat Murphy plays the final two games of the regular season. Jason Kipnis wasn't in the lineup on Friday and we will see how the veteran skipper plays things on Saturday and Sunday.

Seth Blair (6-1, 2.65 ERA) is likely to get the ball for ASU on Saturday and will be opposed by another Bruin freshman standout Trevor Bauer (8-3, 2.90 ERA). First pitch at Packard Stadium for game two is at 6:30 PM.

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